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Tony Galiani

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3 hours ago, Tony Galiani said:

Just some random thoughts from the last few days .....

 

What is it with the gigantic suitcases everyone here seems to be bringing on to the trains?  We are traveling with a small carry-on rolling back pack each plus one small bag (which in my case is not even full).  (Though I suppose it might be full once I get to a few model train stores ...) But every train we get on has quite a few people with large spinner bags which I am estimating to be at least 1 meter in height.  On the train back from Onumakoen one young woman had the aisle partially blocked with her expanded size spinner - there were so many bags in the storage section that quite a few people had bags in the aisle.  Doesn't  seen like a lot of fun to me to be messing with these.

Ciao,

Tony

 

 

Tony, it's the Lunar New Year and there are probably a ton of visitors from China so more tourists with big suitcases.  With the favorable currency, pent up travel urges because of the pandemic lockdown, Chinese folks are coming to Japan by the droves and buying everything in sight.  Need big suitcases to bring the haul back.  😄

 

I suspect at a different time of the year you'll see less of the big rollers.  When we were there in September, I did not notice any overwhelming number of the big rollers.  Almost everyone were using the smaller rollers like we were.

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Tony Galiani

@Kingmeow - didn't know that.  It is also National Foundation Day for Japan and seems to be a three day holiday so that adds to the travel load.  We have been purchasing our tickets as we needed them.  Yesterday, when we went to purchase Shinkansen tickets to return to Aomori the first train we hoped for was sold out.  We got seats on a later train but had to sit separately.

 

Meanwhile I don't know if I should tell my wife about the spinners - don't want to give her any ideas!

 

Tony

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Tony Galiani

Sunday - having to miss a quite a few things in Hakodate due to our schedule - we took the Shinkansen to Aomori.  Easy quick ride - Hakodate Liner to Shin-Hakodate then onto the Shinkansen.  My wife wanted to go to Hirosaki for the Lantern Festival at  HIrosaki Castle so we dropped off our suitcases at the hotel and headed to the station for an Ou Line train - in this case a Tsuguru 4 Limited Express.  (Wondering if I have to now purchase a model of this ....).

 

It was a quick 30 minuted ride in fairly snowy weather.  My wife was thrilled about that.  The Aomori area has gone all in on apples so we joined in the spirt and had an apple tart at the Brick Factory at the station in Hirosaki.  It was early and the city has a nice bus loop for a 100 yen fixed rate so we headed out to the contemporary art museum for the current exhibition then to the museum cafe for a light lunch.  After which we walked up to Hirosaki Castle in the snow.

 

The castle is under renovation but the grounds were open with a lantern festival which was really nice in the dusk and falling snow.  After a while I looked at the time and we had less than an hour to make it back to catch our train.  And we were at the far end of the castle grounds.  We headed out as quickly as the crowds, snow and walking conditions would allow and finally made it to the bus stop.  We waited a bit but in looking more closely at the sign, we realized we had missed the last bus.  Dashed back to the castle grounds entrance where there were taxis.  Of course, we have about two words of Japanese and the driver had no English but we had the tourist map and I pointed to the JR station and off we went.  We made our train which this time was a local so took about 45 minutes.

 

Back in Aomori just about everything was closed around the station.  We found an open combini and picked up a few items then up to our hotel to collapse.  And make plans for an early visit to Aomori on Monday morning.

 

Ciao,

Tony

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Tony Galiani

We got up relatively early on Monday morning to be able to spend some time in Aomori before heading into Tokyo.  By dumb luck, we had gotten a late checkout at the hotel so could leave our stuff in the room until 1300 which made getting out easy.  We had breakfast in the hotel then did the short walk to Shin-Aomori to purchase Shinkansen tickets and then take the Ou Line to the main station in Aomori.

 

I think I mentioned that seating availability was limited due to the holiday - we were able to get seats but had to take middle seats and sit in separate rows.  Of course, since I rarely watch the clock when I am traveling, except when it is essential, and since I knew there were several services to Aomori station, we missed the locals and had one minute to catch the express so that was not going to happen.  Rather than wait the 20 or 30 minutes for the next local, and since now we are experienced taxi riders (!), we went to the taxi stand, pointed to Aomori JR Station on our map and off we went.

 

As hoped, we got there earlier than the museum opened so headed down to the beach for the tourist pics by the AOMORI sign then off for a walk along the snow covered waterfront boardwalk.  There were a few people out including a couple taking pictures of each other.  Years ago, when I started working at the university's main campus, I would often spot people trying to take pictures in front of the chapel and started offering to take pictures for them.  A simple thing really but it really seems to make people happy.  So we did this for the couple and they were really pleased.  We continued our walk past the Seikan ferry and back by the station for a quick latte break.

 

Then on to the Nebuta Museum.  It was fascinating seeing how these floats are made and naturally Mira had to take several hundred pictures.  They had the award winning floats on display as well as a short video about last year's event (with English subtitles).  Then a brief demo of the parade music which was fun.  (And years ago, on my first trip to Fredericton, we saw a Japanese troupe playing the Taiko drums at the concert hall.  The music, and the discipline required, has left a lasting impression  and impacted my approach to playing music.)

 

Since we had to check out and had a train to catch, which we could not miss, I actually looked at the schedule and we made the 12:14 local to Shin-Aomori.  After checking out, we still had some time so off to Macure Cafe in the station for an apple treat and apple beverages.  MIra had an apple ginger tea which was fantastic.  I am not a tea drinker but if I could find that tea in the USA I would definitely be buying it.

 

It turned out that our train, Hayabusa 358, originated at Shin-Aomori which was nice.  We got on with plenty of time to get settled.  It turned out that the seats around us were empty for the first part of the trip to Tokyo so we were able to sit together until the train reached Sendai.  We arrived in Tokyo at rush hour so it was a packed though we were easily able to find our way to our hotel and settle in.  We were pretty tired and decided that Tuesday would be a low key day though it did not turn out quite as low key as we had planned.

 

Ciao,

Tony

 

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Tony Galiani

Tuesday turned into a sort of odd day.  Our plan was to take it a bit easy but 14 kilometers or 8 miles later, I guess not.

 

We started out looking for some larger clothing items as the temperatures in Tokyo were not conducive to wool shirts and socks!  It has turned out to be much warmer than we expected it to be.  No luck initially but we stopped at Uni Qlo near our hotel where I purchased two short sleeve shirts to get me through the rest of the week.

 

I had wanted to go to YFS so up to Akihabara - walking most of the way - so I could go there and Mira could go to Yodobashi Camera.  I missed YFS initially but pulling out my phone to check I saw that I had walked one street too far and that they did not open until 1:00 which was a few hours later.  So I headed back to meet my wife, stopping at Tam-Tam on the way where I picked up a few small items including a set of containers that I had seen on a freight in Hokkaido.

 

I spent a little time at Yodabashi Camera but the sonic wash was getting to me so we bailed out and went to Tully's for some coffee and a break.  At this point I  was ready to pack it in but my wife encouraged me to go back to YFS.  While she shopped at Bic Camera.  Which I did except this time, I went up to the shop only to find a sign on the door, two in fact, and the shop closed.  Not quite sure what was going on but the signs were a bit tattered so figured they were not the "back in 5 minutes" type so I gave up on that.  Stopped at Popondetta on the way back for another small item.

 

After that we headed back to the hotel for a brief rest then dinner at Tonkatsu Wako and over to see the Maronouchi illuminations.  All in all a very tiring day.

 

I realized that I have some pictures on my iPad so here are two from the hotel in Hakodate - one of the floor design in the lobby and one of the old station sign, also in the lobby.  They actually have a bit of train memorabilia in the lobby and in the observation lounge on the top floor.

 

Ciao,

Tony

 

 

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Edited by Tony Galiani
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railsquid
48 minutes ago, Tony Galiani said:

We started out looking for some larger clothing items as the temperatures in Tokyo were not conducive to wool shirts and socks!  It has turned out to be much warmer than we expected it to be.  No luck initially but we stopped at Uni Qlo near our hotel where I purchased two short sleeve shirts to get me through the rest of the week.

 

That's be anthropogenic climate change kicking in. Just watched a segment on TV about various snow- and ice-centric attractions suddenly turning into slush, featuring the "surprised Pikachu" faces of people who have emitted a fair bit of CO2 just to visit them.

 

Going to be a fun summer, if you enjoy wet bulb temperatures and that sort of thing.

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Tony Galiani

Some more random thoughts ....

 

Tully's Coffee and Cafe Veloce have become my favorite options for our coffee breaks.  Starbucks is just way too noisy while Tully's keeps its background music to a reasonable level and the music selection, quite a bit of classic jazz, is very nice.

 

We finally made it to a Daiso shop!  Took me quite a while to get my wife out of there once she started shopping!

 

I had not done any security prep for this trip and it is nice not to have to worry about it.  We have had some negative experiences in our travels (including theft attempts in Paris (multiple times) and Athens) so I usually ditch my wallet, wear a money belt and have clothes with zipper or button pockets but not here.  And today, when Mira pulled her phone out and dropped about 2,000 yen on the ground without noticing it, a young woman and her friends picked up the money and came running over to her with it.  Nice.

 

I did not see much in the way of train books at the model train shops I went to so today, on a whim, I tried the Maruzen bookstore near Tokyo Station.  The shop had a very nice selection of books and magazines, both for the prototype and for modeling.

It was actually the biggest bookstore I have been in for quite a while.  Only picked up one book but might go by again if I get the time, the location is certainly convenient.

 

Cheers,

Tony

 

 

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I love the ease of not worrying about security in Japan. I’ve been all around the third world and learned to watch stuff (luckily nothing of consequence has ever happened), but I japan that loop can be put aside. I still have the habit of moving my wallet to my front pocket and my hand in the pocket when in any crowd, but that’s just a reflex!

 

one trip to Japan I was at the small Kyoto convention center and left my little electric razor there and the next day it miraculously showed up at my little ryokan. I don’t remember telling anyone at the conference where I was going to stay after the conference! They must have called around!

 

I’ve had the same thing dropping a bill by mistake and having someone run up returning it.

 

jeff

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Tony Galiani

Wednesday was the day we had thought it would be good to go to Enoshima, thinking mid-week might be a bit less crowded.  So after a lazy breakfast and slow start, we headed up to Tokyo Station mid-morning.  We needed to purchase tickets but the lines at the JR Ticket Offices were really long and I did not feel confident enough to try the ticket machine.  We had used the small JP East Pass Office in the north Maronouchi section before so went over there to find a very short line with a woman assisting the flow by writing out ticket slips for the ticket agents.  Our request was a bit of a curve ball for the agent but he used his tech to get the info and we soon had our tickets to Fujisawa.

 

We only had ten minutes to make our train but Tokyo Station is easy to navigate and we were on the platform in plenty of time for the 40 minute ride to Fujisawa, stop JT8.  There we changed to the Enoden Dentetsu - one of the trains with the retro cars.   (I will post some pictures when I return as I took them on my iPhone.)  A short ride later - six stops - we arrived at the station for Enoshima.

 

The walk towards the island causeway was neat - the area had a real beach town vibe with people riding bikes equipped to carry surfboards.  RIght before the causeway, we got our first surprise - we turned the corner to see Fuji-san!  I had read you could see Mount Fuji from there but really did not expect much but the view turned out great.  Cue Mira to take the obligatory hundred or so pictures!

 

We sat near the beach for a while, enjoying the view, watching the surfers and everyone passing by then decided to go to the aquarium since it was still way too early for the illuminations.  We had purchased a one day pass at the information center near the causeway which gave us a discount to the aquarium as well.  This aquarium focuses on the environment of Sagami Bay and is very well done - actually too much to see for me in the time we had planned.

 

After a few hours there, we headed across the causeway.  Since we had not eaten since breakfast we stopped for a snack at a cafe once we were on the island.  In the spirit of beach town vibe, it was definitely mediocre but fueled us for the next bit as it was uphill the rest of the way.

 

Against my general principles, we used the escalators to get to the top of the island.  We had no problem with Mount Inari in Kyoto but I was a bit under the weather and Mira's knee has been acting up so we took the safest course of action.  Arriving at the top it was still a bit early for the illuminations so Mira went to the cave while I just vegged out and enjoyed the view.  At 5:00 PM most of the lights went on then at 5:30 PM the lights in the garden and on the tower went on as well as soft music in the garden.  We spent an hour or so wandering around and enjoying the experience - it was a bit crowded but not really that bad - certainly not Mount Hakodate crowded!  All in all, very enjoyable.

 

We slowly made our way back down - slowly as there were illumination sections part of the way which, of course, required more picture taking.  Then over the causeway, back on the Enoden Dentetsu for an easy transfer to the JR Tokaido Line at Fujisawa where, to my wife's surprise, the train was pretty full - though thankfully, it cleared out quite a bit at Yokahama.  I also got to see a container freight passing through Fujisawa but could not react fast enough to take pictures.

 

Ciao,

Tony

 

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Glad you are enjoying yourself, Tony. It sounds like a lot of fun. Taking it slow enough to really take things in, despite what seems like a fairly busy schedule.

 

I once left a bag of shopping on a Chuo line train, and was able to pick it up from Mitaka the next day, even with my very poor Japanese back then.

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Tony Galiani

@mojo - We are going slower and slower as the week goes on!  Trying to find a balance as we want to take advantage of our time here but also not go so crazy running around that we don't enjoy ourselves.

 

On Thursday we started off by going to the Marie Laurencin exhibition at the Artizon Museum.  Then from high brow to low brow - we had never been to a Daiso shop so went to one up near Ueno Station.  At first my wife was a bit reluctant but once she was there I had a struggle to get her to leave!  She bought a few items and after that we headed down towards Yodobashi as she wanted to buy one more cable for her charger.

 

On the way, I saw that YFS was open so went there while my wife, sort of encouraged by me, went to a puppy cafe for a little bit and I met her there after my shopping spree.  As long time dog owners, we have doubts about the puppy cafe concept.  The dogs are certainly cute and nice but they are completely food motivated and rush from person to person only if they have treats.  While our dogs certainly are happy to have treats, they are just as happy to see us or our friends and neighbors.  Which seems more appropriate to me.  Don't think we can recommend the puppy cafe experience.

 

After that a light dinner near Tokyo Station and back to the hotel to rest up.

 

Friday was another light day.  My wife wanted to go to Nippori Fabric Town so we went up and walked around Ueno Park for a bit then she went fabric shopping while I picked up some additional train books at Maruzen.  For anyone going there - take the escalator to the second floor - turn left for magazines or turn right and go to section D 11 for train books.  I picked up two more  modelling books at this visit.

 

When we met again, we went over to Asakusa for the free viewing platform at the tourist office near the shrine.  It did not live up to the hype - some okay but limited views - worth it if you are in the area but not worth a trip otherwise.  After that back to Maruzen so my wife could pick up a few final items then another stop at Tonkatsu Wako for dinner.  Then back to the hotel to pack for our return trip home.

 

Ciao,

Tony

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Tony Galiani

Currently at Haneda relaxing before our flight.  I had commented previously about travel bags so here is a picture of my complete travel rig.  And the green bag started out half empty but now has a bunch of modelling items.  One mistake - lots of small bits and pieces - I should have purchased a plastic container at Daiso to protect the items in transit.  Hopefully, all will arrive in good shape.

And I had think I mentioned the yard at Hakodate but did not include a picture so adding it here.  Only the farthest tracks seem to be in use.  The ten or so closest to the station and hotel have lots of weeds and don't seem to be in use.

 

Ciao,

Tony

 

 

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@Tony Galiani I know what you mean about the puppy cafe. I've been to a couple of cat cafes and I had some concerns. They have other ones now too, there is an owl cafe in Asakusa and I think I saw... Might have been rabbits? In Kichijoji.

 

I have so many Daiso plastic boxes here, from trips. And plastic resealable bags. There's a bit of an internet cult built up around it in Japan, people posting about the surprisingly good stuff you can get there. Not quite Hard Off levels with multiple songs written about it, but definitely a following. Maybe they need better theme music, I can't even think of what theirs is off the top of my head.

 

Have a safe flight.

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Tony Galiani

Back home after relatively easy flights.  Slightly late into Washington and it was a struggle to get my passport app to work but it eventually did and we made our connection easily.  Timing at Haneda was a bit off - we checked out of the hotel at 11:00 AM but our flight was not until almost 5:00 PM - since we were sort of tired we decided to go to the airport early and just wait there.  Did a small bit of shopping and had some Hokkaido ice cream as well.

 

I have a few more pictures to post though probably not for a day or so as I am pretty beat right now.  I picked up a bit of a bug during our stay and while I never got very sick, I came back pretty tired.  Plus the animals were nuts last night - they would just not leave us alone which did not make for a restful night's sleep.

 

BTW - I used the Airalo eSim again and that worked well.  I tend not to be a heavy data user - I had purchased 2GB of data use but only ended up using about half of it over the course of our stay.  So, all in all, a pretty good deal.  My wife purchased a conventional sim card when we arrived at Haneda which worked okay but required some set up and was more costly.  In the future, I think I would just pre-purchase one via Japan Experience or wait until we get into the city and go to Yodobashi.  Buying sim cards in the airport is not usually the best deal.

 

Ciao,

Tony

 

 

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Wow, back already???!!!  It seems like you only left yesterday!

 

Looking forward to your pictures!

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Tony Galiani

@Kingmeow - Afraid so.  The trip was shorter than I would have liked.  Had to work around some constraints between work and music  - so a challenge to find time.  As it is, I have two musical commitments coming up this week.

 

This also reminds me of something I meant to mention but forgot - trip timing.  I originally started looking at this time of year as I had thought about attending the Sapporo Snow and Ice Festival.  While that did not happen, February actually worked out well as a time to travel to Japan.  Our flight over (on a Thursday) was not full at all and the flight back (on a Saturday) had a heavier load but was still not full.  Consequently, fares were not too bad as airfare goes nowadays.

 

I did not realize it when I booked the trip but February 11th is National Foundation Day in Japan and it also turned out to be the Lunar New Year so there were quite a few tourists but I have seen much worse.  We purchased all our train travel tickets on the day we were going to ride and did not have a problem except for Monday the 12th when people were traveling after National Foundation Day.  We were still able to get seats but did not have as many options to choose from.

 

Weather wise, it was not bad at all and rarely got uncomfortably cold for us - bearing in mind we are both from northern climates and used to the cold.  We rarely had temps below 30 F / -1 or -2 C and it actually got up to around 70F on Thursday.  We will still likely look to travel late Spring or early Fall in future trips to Japan but would not hesitate to go again at this time of year.

 

Ciao,

Tony

 

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Tony Galiani

I still have a few pictures from the trip so will post them over the next few days.  Here is our ride to Hokkaido and one we did not take - the Joetsu Shinkansen.  We had contemplated going to a ski resort (since my wife used to ski quite a bit) but in the end decided that discretion was the better course as she had not gone skiing for some time.  And things worked out pretty well for us in Hokkaido and at Aomori.

Ciao,
Tony

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Tony Galiani

Our ride from Shin-Hakodate to Hakodate station.  And, squid are important to Hokkaido, hence this manhole cover!

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Nice! @Kamome442 if you ever do another round of manhole covers! Probably too small to resolve! 
 

maybe a new avatar for squid.

 

jeff

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Tony Galiani

I am appreciating @mojo's earlier comment about posting pictures from home and getting to relive our trip again.  I will continue to post some over the next few days, including some more KiHa shots for @ED75-775.

 

Here are some pics from our visit to Mount Hakodate.  A few views from the top and then a picture of us inside the building while in line to leave.  I think I mentioned we would offer to take pictures for people we saw trying to get a picture of themselves and we did that in the interior viewing area at Mount Hakodate while on line to return.  The downside is that then people want to reciprocate - I hate having my picture taken - but it is nice to be able to interact with people when we travel so we continue to do this.

 

Ciao,

Tony

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Tony Galiani

Our ride to Onuma Quasi National Park and a couple of South Hokkaido Railway KiHas.  Got to see most of SHR's KiHas as the line from Hakodate station went by their stabling area and the various units were in and out of Hakodate Station while we where there.  South Hokkaido Railway used the two easternmost platforms - right under our windows.  Then from east to west with the platforms - and always the same during our short stay - locals (JR Hokkaido KiHas); the Hakodate Liner connection to Shin-Hakodate and the Super Hakuto Limited Expresses to Sapporo.  (Found some of these on sale, used, from Suruga-Ya - hoping for a free shipping sale so I can purchase one.)

IIRC, all the South Hokkaido KiHas were in the Mount Hakodate livery except for this one.

Ciao,

Tony

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Tony Galiani

Don't want to over post but taking a break from work craziness to post a few more pics of the KiHas at Hakodate Station.  I really should have allowed more time there as I wanted to take a ride on one of these.  I suppose this gives me a reason to return!

Ciao,

Tony

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Tony,

 

No worries on over posting, we all love vicariously traveling with you and others. Always fun to see how and what folks photograph as well.

 

Thanks for the trip!

 

cheers,

 

jeff

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